Monday, 22 April 2013

Paris on a budget

A sunny spring weekend in Paris with the boy I love?  That will do nicely, thank you.  We had a fabulous two days (the only 'problem' being that I was having such a good time I didn't take many photographs, hence the paucity of pictures to accompany this post), and best of all: it was very, very cheap.  Paris is renowned for being extremely pricey to visit, so how did we manage it on a tight budget?  Read on...

There are so many benefits to using Airbnb rather than booking a hotel or hostel room.  Not only was our third floor studio flat in Montmartre cheap (just £75 a night, which was less than a private room in a local youth hostel), but it oozed vintage Parisian charm.  You are really able to get a small taste of how the locals live when you are staying in someone's home, and we would never have stumbled across the slightly shabby but very hip Rue Muller - on the lower slopes of the Butte Montmartre and only a short climb from the Sacre Coeur - if we'd been staying in a hotel.
Total spend: £80 each, inc. Airbnb fees

I managed to pick up bargain advance train tickets to London, and used Avios (which I collect by exchanging my Tesco Clubcard points*) to book the Eurostar for just under £30.

Once in Paris, the weather was a great help with keeping costs down. Instead of taking the Metro constantly, we only used it for longer trips across the city and walked everywhere else, so we were able to get by with one carnet of tickets between the two of us for the whole weekend.
Total spend: £55 for return trains Leicester-Paris
€13.30 for two for a carnet of ten Metro tickets

Our food expenditure was incredibly low for various reasons.  Being able to buy groceries to cook at 'home' made a huge difference.  We used the Carrefour supermarket around the corner from the flat, and €25 bought us enough for two breakfasts and one dinner (including a bottle of champagne, because we were feeling fancy).

I can also heartily recommend Maoz, on the Left Bank, for a cheap, tasty, filling (and vegetarian) meal.  Their pitta stuffed with falafel and salad (they also offer optional hummus or aubergine, for an extra 50 cents), eaten in a sunny park overlooking the Seine, made a perfect lunch on Saturday.

On Sunday we fortuitously stumbled across an amazing bistro in the Canal St Martin area, Le Robinet d'Or.  Not only was it the height of urban industrial chic, but their brunch special was an absolute bargain by Parisian standards.  We both had plates piled high with pineapples, pancakes, potatoes and salad, plus a veggie wrap for him and a salmon steak for me.  Add to that a hot drink and freshly squeezed orange juice, plus a bread basket, and the €17 price tag seemed extremely reasonable, especially because the food was so utterly delicious and the service extremely friendly.
Total spend: approx. €52 each, for two breakfasts, two lunches, one home-cooked dinner, Saturday evening drinks, Sunday afternoon drinks, vegan cake, and one bottle of champagne

Saving money on sightseeing was a matter of luck for us.  The Boy and I had both been to Paris before, so we didn't have any burning desire to pay through the nose for attractions we'd already visited.  The weather was also glorious, enabling us to spend two days outside: rain might have driven us to pricey galleries and museums.  Instead we spent Saturday wandering the tourist-choked streets of the Ile de Cite and the Latin Quarter, admiring the Pantheon, the Sorbonne, Notre Dame Cathedral and the beautiful narrow streets of the Left Bank, without spending any money.

Paris's famed cemeteries are free of charge to visit and on a beautiful day like Sunday, Montparnasse Cemetery made a peaceful and relaxing place to walk and reflect.  We had intended to visit the Catacombs - which, with an €8 charge, would not have exactly broken the bank - but instead decided to go across to the Canal St Martin area, in the north-east, next to Gare de l'Est.  This hip corner of the city is very much a local area, and Sunday by the canal is a Parisian tradition.  The streets are closed to traffic and people gather to sit by the water or in the surrounding cafes and bars.  A perfect ending to a perfect weekend.
Total spend: nothing

* and which, after four years of collecting, have thus far yielded up a return flight to South Africa, a business class return to Amsterdam at New Years, and this trip to Paris. Seriously- the Clubcard/Avios scheme is totally worth it.


  1. Wow that's great that you managed to get there so cheaply! Sounds like a perfect weekend (and i also love Maoz!)

    1. It was really lovely. Back to earth (and back to work) with a bang yesterday!

  2. I love Maoz! Did you know it's a chain with a branch in London?(If you fancy visiting again closer to home).

    1. I knew it was a chain (there's one in The Boy's hometown in the Netherlands) but not that there was one in London. Good to know!

  3. Sounds great. I am hoping to do a trip to Paris with some girlfriends but money (or lack there of) has currently been an issue. Some great tips here though!